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Day Four: Tel Aviv, the first Hebrew City

July 8, 2012

Our second day in Tel Aviv began at Independence Hall, where Israeli’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion declared Israel’s independence as a state on May 14, 1948. What’s striking about the hall is that it is a relatively small room, but it held 250 guests for the ceremony, which was kept relatively secret from the public. For all of its historical significance, the tour guide at the Hall said that the meeting lasted no longer than 20 minutes.

After lunch, we went to Beait Hapalmach, a museum that celebrates the Palmach, Israel’s pre-state elite fighting force. The museum was structured in a unique way, with a film about a group of typical people who would be in a Palmach group that allowed you to follow them through the years of the journey as you went from room to room. Some issues with hearing English translations of the rather loud Hebrew hurt the experience for some people on the trip, but others found it captivating and an interesting reenactment.

The next stop was the Ayalon Institute, which presented a tour of a munitions factory that was located underground and kept completely hidden by the few people who worked there (who called those not privy to it “giraffes”). This turned out to be a fascinating museum, and we were once again lucky enough to have a tour guide who was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic. We were all amazed at how they kept this mission a secret, and the fact that they were doing this highly important mission while being only 19 or 20 years old. That’s younger than me, and I doubt anyone will be allowing me to produce bullets anytime soon.

After eating dinner on our own, some of the group went to the Nalaga’at Theater, which puts on a show performed only by deaf and blind actors. Batya called the play “extraordinary” and said it was inspiring to see these people tell their stories. It was unusual and worth watching.

The rest of us explored the town for the night, where we continued to quickly become acquainted with Israeli life. One point in particular that has been observed by the group is that the average Israeli could be considered “rude” — they drive somewhat recklessly, push people aside while walking without saying anything, and in general seem to be somewhat oblivious to the concerns of others. It can be frustrating at times, but there is also a certain charm to their lack of put-upon niceties — what we call “Minnesota Nice” is often just an obligatory gesture without any real meaning, so I’ve enjoyed being in a place where things are a bit more unscripted and people are free to mostly do what they want.

That’s especially true of Tel Aviv, which certainly appears to be the “coolest” city in Israel, with a beautiful location on the Mediterranean and a vibrant night life. The casual, loose atmosphere wasn’t what I was expecting when I came to the country, but it appears to be the standard for most places. It was a good place to start our trip in Israel, and after this day we were sad — but also excited — to move on to other sights.

– Josh

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